Air Force Maintenance Commander Fired from Specialized Fighter Unit in Pacific

U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 35th Fighter Squadron at Misawa Air Base, Japan, arrives at Yokota AB, Japan, Sept. 13, for Friendship Festival 2019. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Brieana E. Bolfing)
U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 35th Fighter Squadron at Misawa Air Base, Japan, arrives at Yokota AB, Japan, Sept. 13, for Friendship Festival 2019. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Brieana E. Bolfing)

The commander of the 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Misawa Air Base, Japan, has been fired over loss of confidence in his ability to lead the unit.

Col. Rognald E. Christensen, the 35th Maintenance Group commander, relieved Lt. Col. Jason Moehle of his duties Monday, according to Capt. Lauren Linscott, spokeswoman for the 35th Fighter Wing. The wing flies F-16 Fighting Falcons.

"A decision of this magnitude is never easy to make, but it's the right decision in ensuring we're maintaining the highest standards of leadership in the 35th Fighter Wing's ranks," added 35th Fighter Wing commander Col. Kristopher Struve.

Lt. Col. Clarence F. McRae will lead the maintenance squadron until further notice, Struve said.

Related: Elite Air Force Rescue Squadron Commander Relieved over 'Loss of Confidence'

It is unclear whether Moehle's removal was prompted by an investigation. Linscott did not comment on any potential inquiries, nor about Moehle's possible reassignment.

Moehle took over the unit in June 2018, according to Air Force Times, which was first to report the news.

He had previously been interim commander of the 1st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, in 2016. Moehle stepped in after Lt. Col. Ivan Pennington, head of F-22 Raptor maintenance for the base, was removed for loss of confidence, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

The 35th Fighter Wing, reactivated at Misawa in 1994 and known as the "Wild Weasels," primarily trains for suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) missions, according to the service. The Weasels -- one of only two SEAD forces in the Pacific, along with the 36th Fighter Squadron at Osan Air Base, Korea -- would be the first fighter force to respond to enemy surface-to-air missile threats should a conflict arise.

The firing follows other leadership removals over loss of confidence in recent days.

Lt. Col. Scott Rein was removed from command of the 41st Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, on Sept. 24. That same day, Lt. Col. Nicholas Petren, head of the 90th Security Forces Squadron at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, was also removed over his inability to maintain a healthy command climate.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the number of SEAD forces in the Pacific.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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